June 18, 2024

Fallout finds a Radiant Reception

But did poor timing and gaming oversight hamper franchise marketing?‍ The Fallout TV series, Amazon’s $153 million adaptation of the popular game, became the platform's biggest premiere with 91 million viewing hours across 102 million views in its top 17 markets. Despite a heavy marketing push targeting gamers through Twitch, the show’s watch party failed to draw significant engagement compared to other major Twitch events. This suggests Amazon's continued struggle to effectively leverage Twitch for mainstream media promotions and highlights the platform’s resistance to non-gaming content.

But did poor timing and gaming oversight hamper franchise marketing?

Fallout Joins Big-Budget IP Adaptions

Fallout, Amazon's latest big-budget ($153 million) TV series, premiered on April 11th and now has taken top spot as Amazon’s biggest premiering series, taking 53m views and 47m hours in the US, for a total of 91m hours of viewing across 102m views (top 15 markets) across Amazon’s top 17 markets.

Game IP series are increasingly viewed as a staple of content slate strategy, especially for streaming services; diverging from origins as low-budget, child-focused cash-grabs.

More recently, fully financed live-action adaptations including The Last of Us, Twisted Metal, Halo, and The Witcher (originally a novel adaptation). While in the adult animated space limited-run series include those inspired by Cyberpunk, Dragon Age, Castlevania, Arcane, and Far Cry (Captain Lazerhawk).

Adapting games to TV can be a double-edged sword. While having a pre-existing fan-base can guarantee audience, it also can define that audience, restrict show material, and limit setting and tone. Scriptwriters not respecting the “law” of a series is often cited as the main concern by avid fans.

Fallout though, is designed to allow players to create their own stories within the setting and, unlike a novel adaptation, features a protagonist with no set name, build or gender. Noland and Joy are able to forge their own path in the post-apocalyptic universe, flavoured by the rich setting, but flexible enough to bring original ideas and narratives.

Home Field Marketing – Amazon targets gamers in the natural habitat

Amazon invested $153m into production of the show, with marketing and misc. post and distribution costs likely taking total budget to just under $200m.  

Amazon optioned a heavy marketing push in the build-up to the launch of the series. Traditional marketing channels like billboards and TV spots were complemented by strategic partnerships with Bethesda and included campaigns which leaned into the character of the show and game.

Amazon also implemented a gaming specific campaign targeting key groups on social platforms and gaming-focussed streaming.

Amazon’s collaboration with game producer Bethesda, saw the integration of content and game assets into Twitch, Fallout Shelter, and Fallout 76. Fallout 76 was also available as a “claim to keep” title on Amazon’s gaming service.

Twitch emerged as the focal point of Amazon's marketing strategy. The company offered the first episode of Fallout for free as a watch party in collaboration with a range of Twitch steamers April 11th, while eschewing airing a free-to-watch first episode on Prime Video.

Bethesda also integrated Twitch “drops” including lunch boxes, perk card packs, and three S.C.O.R.E. boosters for Fallout Shelter, and Fallout 76.

It is not uncommon for games-TV crossovers to target existing fans, show’s such as The Last of Us pushed marketing on social and gaming sites, but Amazon’s preference of Twitch over its own platform pointed to strategy of targeting a gaming-audience in their home-territory and a desire to find more dedicated, niche and younger fans.

Twitch Resists, Remains Odd-Child of Streaming

The premise was straightforward and aligned with a crucial objective for streamers: to expand their reach to untapped audiences, a North Star for Amazon. Here, gaming streamers from Amazon’s Twitch platform ran watch parties, airing the first episode of Fallout. Amazon ran promotional material on social media for weeks during the buildup to launch.

Amazon's strategic partnership extended to both established and emerging streamers on Twitch. Notably, influencers like Shroud, boasting a substantial following of 10.9 million, were enlisted to amplify the series' visibility.

However, alongside these prominent figures, Amazon also engaged with a number of much smaller streamers, raising questions around a failure to secure desired influencers, and a resorting to a more indiscriminate approach.

Even among prominent Twitch streamers with substantial follower counts and presumably receptive audiences, the outcomes were underwhelming. Shroud, boasting 10.9 million followers, only managed to peak at 30,000 viewers and maintained an average of 23,800. Twitch's estimate of the total audience, roughly 168,000, indicates that merely 1.5% of Shroud's followers tuned in to watch the premiere and related Fallout gaming content.

Following Fallout's release and the subsequent resurgence of interest in Fallout 4, Shroud hosted several live streams, some of which attracted similar or even larger audiences (up to 199,000). Despite Amazon's efforts to promote Twitch special events, the impact on audience engagement appears minimal, with Fallout's watch party failing to surpass normal Twitch audiences for that day and even falling short compared to other Twitch events.

In contrast, Twitch does host events that draw in millions of viewers. Last year's "La Velada del Año 3," an influencer boxing match organized by Ibai and broadcast on Twitch, reached a peak of 3.4 million viewers. Similarly, the "Premios ESLAND" award show peaked at 1.7 million viewers, while the creator football match "Eleven All-Stars" attracted 1 million viewers.

These key Twitch events share common traits: they prioritize live-event viewing and are often driven by influencers with charismatic personalities. Whilst a watch party technically qualifies as a live event, the “must-watch” allure of live streaming is diminished when it simply involves a simulcast of recorded content. Major Twitch events thrive on the unique energy of live interaction, whether it's influencers reacting to gaming events or engaging with each other.

Amazon's relative failure to utilize Twitch as a promotional platform for TV programming unveils two key insights. Firstly, it suggests that Amazon's understanding of the streaming platform it acquired for $1 billion in 2014 remains incomplete, and the ecommerce giant still doesn’t understand how to integrate it with the rest of its properties.

Secondly, it underscores the ultra-niche nature of Twitch and its audiences which staunchly resist any attempts to assimilate mainstream media content.